ATCEMS testing N95 respirator masks, equipment for COVID-19 response

Austin-Travis County EMS has joined hospitals and other healthcare workers on the frontlines, battling COVID-19.

“We opened up our department operations center last week and that's where we were able to bring in some command staff to start going over our planning process,” said Cheif of Staff, Jasper Brown.

The team has been preparing since February. They've developed a COVID-19 decontamination process and have also increased capacity to provide ambulance disinfectant in the field.

They also are testing the fits of their N95 respirator masks, “We've been testing folks to make sure they have the right size and know what mask they’ll need when those supplies come in,” said Brown.

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Brown says COVID-19 is something the public shouldn't take lightly, “There's no need to panic, but it is serious and it can be serious for those with underlying conditions, especially the elderly with underlying conditions. But we are seeing millennials and any age can have complications.”

The coronavirus outbreak has shuttered the City of Austin, crippling restaurants which are only allowed to offer delivery and carry out. It has closed bars, malls, movie theaters and many places where the public gathers. Anyone or any business caught not obeying the mayor's order could expect fines.

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“The current standing order is dine-in areas have to be closed. We are going and informing people. We are not trying to enact harsh penalties but this is now the law. We're asking everyone to follow these orders, distance yourself from people outside of your immediate family unit, and work from home,” said Greg Casar, Austin City Council member.

The economic impact will be severe, but Casar said they are already figuring things out, “Right now the city is working on reorganizing our budget and funds to come up with what the city's emergency relief plan can be. If we didn't start shutting down those dine-in seating areas, and bars, the virus would have spread much faster not only claiming more lives but likely doing even more long term economic damage.”

Casar’s office has compiled a coronavirus resource guide for citizens.